May 122014

Newsom Vineyards – High Plains Site of 2014 Newsom Grape Day

Newsom Grape Day & Tempranillo Symposium: Five Things I Leaned About Texas Wine

Last Friday was the annual gathering of grape growers and winemakers from around the state in Neal Newsom’s “Barn-atorium” surrounded by his Newsom family vineyards near Plains, Texas. The big white metal structure was filled nearly to capacity with what Neal described as likely to be “a record-breaking attendance”. The only question remaining was only the total attendance which had already acceded the RSVPs, filled the available seats, and left standing room only for the remainder of the attendees.

While the prior evening’s drive from Lubbock was made a bit made exciting by clouds of red sand blow up by the 35 mph wind on FM2196, the morning of the meeting was still and crisp at 49 F. The sun cast long day-break shadows down the rows of grapevines in the adjacent vineyard blocks.


The Newsom Grape Day events were summarized by Jeff Cope on his Texas Wine Lover blog. Presentations focused on Texas high plains grape growing and factors that contribute to bringing quality and value to Texas wines. I’ve tried to boil down what I learned to five major points that need to be conveyed to all Texas wineries, vineyards and interested consumers after listening to the presentations and from discussions of the attendees:

  • Number 1 – Texans Should Look to Spain for Knowing What to Look for in Texas Wines.  According to Dr. Ed Hellman at Texas Tech, Tempranillo is well positioned for Texas wine. It the most heavily planted red grape in the wine regions of Spain, a country that has similar latitude and elevation to many places in the Texas Hill Country and Texas High Plains viticultural areas. The overlap in latitude comes at 36 degrees north latitude with Texas being somewhat lower with higher average temperatures. However, western Texas generally has higher elevations that bring cool night time temperatures that helps to produce high quality grapes. Continue reading »
 Posted by at 2:08 pm
May 052014

Grape Creek Vineyards Owner, Brian Heath, launching a cork from his newly released Euphoria sparkling wine!

Grape Creek Vineyards Releases Euphoria: Texas Sparkling Wine

A long time ago, I mused in the blog about Texans and their love for sparkling wines (click here). However, there have been darn few sparklers actually made right here in the Lone Star state. That’s why I was so excited when to herd about Grape Creek Vineyards release of their new sparkling wine, “Euphoria”.

In celebration of this event, Owners Brian & Jennifer Heath and Winemaker Jason Englert held a premier release and tasting of Grape Creek Vineyard’s FIRST sparkling wine.  They billed it as Experience Euphoria!  


I came early to get a sip with Brian Heath. Before I knew it, Brian grabbed a bottle of Euphoria and a couple of glasses and asked me to follow him out on the winery’s well wooded grounds. There, he unfastened the wire closure on the bottle and launched a cork. Brian said, “You know, I really love doing this! It’s the fun part of owning a winery.” While the power of the carbonation only powered the cork about 15 feet, the wine that flowed forth was worthy of attention. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:01 am
Apr 302014

Ol’ Gabe’s Homestead Winery Malbec

Malbec World Day: Some Great Texas Malbecs, too!

I must admit to being behind the curve. I didn’t acknowledging the worldwide celebration of Malbec wines (Malbec World Day) held on April 17th. I really have no excuse; but I’d like caught up on this. I’m a great fan of wines made from the Malbec grape. They generally are dark and purple, friendly to firm, and incredibly fine paired with food, especially meat…grilled meat as I’ve experienced in Argentina.

As very nicely summarized, “Malbec is a purple grape variety used in making red wine. The grapes tend to have an inky dark color and robust tannins, and are known as one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wine. The French plantations of Malbec are now found primarily in Cahors in South West France. It is increasingly celebrated as an Argentine varietal wine and is being grown around the world.” Click for more.


Let me say that late last year and especially during the past month, I’ve had the pleasure to have some mighty fine Malbec wines. I started with Clos Siguier, a French Cahors. It was dark, fruity and with a firm tannic grip. It paired well with mixed outdoor grill on a fine fall Houston evening. Starting with France and moving on to other places like Argentina and, even Texas, shows the legacy and adaptability of the Malbec grape. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 9:11 pm
Apr 272014

Guy Stout, Master Sommelier, at Buffalo Gap Tasting

Buffalo Gap W&F Summit: Guy Stout’s Tasting Spectacular

Yesterday morning at 10 am, we were presented with a 21 wine rapid fire tasting prepared and presented by Guy Stout, Certified Master Sommelier, Corporate Director of Beverage Education for The Glazer’s Family of Companies and the only self-proclaimed “Cowboy Sommelier” that I know. It was a mash up of wines from Argentina, Texas and California, but well organized generally in order of light an bright to thick and chewy.


Of the 21 wines, 9 were well chosen examples of the wines from Texas. Guy led-off with a white wine from his own lone star state, Duchman Family Winery Vermentino with lemon lime notes and an underlying minerally character. My friend Alfonzo, please noticed that I didn’t use the no-no word – “minerality” anywhere in that wine description.  Winemaker Todd Webster presented Brennan Vineyards Viognier is perhaps a classic example of today’s Texas wine; clean and crisp with medium body and notes of peach and a hint of jasmine. Gary McKibben presented his Red Caboose Winery Lenoir-Tempranillo blend. Lenior (aka Black Spanish, Jacquez) that showed how Lenoir can be integrated into an excellent table wine as a partner with Tempranillo, the leading contender for the leading red grape in Texas.

About midway through the tasting four Texas wines were presented back-to-back. These included the Bending Branch Winery Tempranillo (Texas High Plains) that was whole berry fermented to provide a mouthful of black cherry characteristics, and the always fun and pleasing McPherson Cellars Tre Colore, a blend of red grapes (Carignan and Mourvedre) along with a white grape (Viognier). It is a great red wine for warm Texas summers particularly if served slightly chilled.

Then came one of my favorite wines in Guy’s tasting. It was  Pedernales Cellars GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blend). As indicated by Perdenales’s President, Fredrik Osterberg, it was a classic blend with a “Texas twist”. This GSM was clean and crisp with red and black fruit characteristics and a delightful and lively nose with both fruit notes and vanilla and spice from barrel aging. The four-set of Texas wines was completed by Llano Estacado Winery Cellar Reserve Merlot (Newsom Vineyards – Texas High Plains). Llano VP and executive winemaker, Greg Bruni, presented the wine and described is medium body and plum fruit notes. This wine should remind us that Merlot, while not always in the spotlight in Texas, is a versatile grape for Texas.


Another show stopper was a pre-release tasting of the Lost Oak Winery Gold Label Shiraz presented by winemaker Jim Evans. This wine was rich with sweet blackberry fruit mixed with smoky and minerals, qualities that makes this wine equally at home as a sipper or when enjoyed in combination with a grilled rare steak.

Closing out the Texas representatives on this international wine panel was Dr. Richard Becker (co-founder of the Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit) and owner of Becker Vineyards. He presented his proprietary red blend – Raven. Normally, this wine is a blend of Malbec and Petite Verdot, but in 2009, he lost his Malbec to a late spring freeze and decided to pair what he thought was some pretty darn good PV with Texas Hill Country Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a premium red blend and brought both the deep color and chewiness of the PV with a delightful tannic structure and aromas from the Cabernet.

I’d be remiss not to highlight the two wines from Argentina that included Alamos Malbec and the Don Migel Gascon Malbec both from the Argentine Mendoza region (very much like our own Texas High Plains) that has brought this grape to the international forefront and defined its character. These were both thick, dark and well extracted wines with a vibrant purple color and blackberry, blueberry and cherry notes with a hint of mocha.


By noon, we were finished with Guy’s 21 wine tasting and exited the tent to seek out lunch prepared by Stephen Pyles with a menu derived from his Stamplede66 restaurant offerings. Honey Fried chicken and Texas grass fed Wagyu beef brisket were accompanied by chopped salad, German potato salad all served under the live oak trees on the Perini Ranch with a wonderful bottle of bright red Malbec Rose’ from Brennan Vineyards [I love that color].


I finished off lunch with a seasonal berry cobbler and a Dr. Pepper float with Snickers ice cream. Now, for the nap!



 Posted by at 9:50 am
Apr 262014

Picadas of Lamb around the fire

2014 Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit: A Celebration of the Favors of Argentina

At Perini Ranch in Buffalo Gap, it was an experience of primary colors. The foundation was of dusty red west Texas soil. Immediately overhead was a silky sea of lime green mesquite leaves cast against the azure blue sky. All around was pungent white smoke that arose from the culinary seven fires of Argentine Chef Francis Mallmann. The question in my mind as I entered the grounds was, would it be as I experienced in Argentina in past years. Well, it was that, and more!

The fires were started at 7 am to slow cook lamb splayed on classic picadas. Grass fed beef ribeyes were roasting on metal grates. Vegetables were buried to cook underground, and chickens tucked into balls hanging on hooks. Walking among the seven fires was a pre-dinner treat while sipping on Argentine Torrontes or Texas Merlot as nothing would be served until 7 pm. Tom Perini from Buffalo Gap’s Perini Steakhouse  and Chef Mallmann worked in the pit stopping for an occasional rest and chat, perhaps to share cowboy and gaucho cooking tips.


Buffalo Gap’s Tom Perini and Argentina’s Chef Mallmann overseeing the pit.

This year’s Buffalo Gap Wine & Food Summit was a 10th anniversary affair billed as “a taste of Argentina in Texas”. It brought the meat-based cuisine and wines of Argentina together with wines from Argentina, Texas and California. The dinner on Friday evening was everything we had watched earlier that day served in four family style courses along side 16 wines. Featured Texas wines included:

With Argentina as the feature of this year’s Summit, there were several wines presented made from the signature grape of that country, Malbec; featuring Argentina’s Don Miguel Gascon Malbec Reserva, Ramian Estate Malbec (Napa), Truchard Vineyards Malbec (Carneros Napa), and Meeker Vineyards (Sonoma County) Malbec.


Friday Dinner Gathering at the Buffalo Gap Wine and Food Summit with Chef Mallmann speaking.

Malbec is an intensely purple grape used in making red wine with an Argentine style with an inky dark color and robust flavor of blackberries.  This grape originated in the area of Cahors in South West France. However, it is increasingly distinguished as an Argentine varietal wine with it distinctive style. One of the interesting similarities discussed is that between the Argentine Mendoza wine growing region and that of the Texas High Plains around Lubbock. Both regions are high altitude arid areas backed by evening higher mountains. Whereas the Mendoza averages around 2400 ft in elevation, the Texas High Plains starts at about 3200 feet and goes up to 4000 ft. Both share intense sunny dry conditions.


A sip of Alamos Torrontes under the shade of a Live Oak tree at Buffalo Gap.

 Posted by at 4:52 pm
Apr 232014

Live Viognier Buds on High Plains Cane Pruned Viognier After the Recent Freeze

Texas High Plains Report: It’s Alive! It’s Alive!

I just received a photo from a certain (and notable) viticulturist on the high plains. Like many that reside near him, he didn’t hold out much hope for the naked and infantile buds on the vines in his area after last week’s freeze. This sad prognosis was particularly true for the early budding and Texas popular white grape varieties like Viognier. Click here for more.

But, as you can see in the picture above, the tender gray-green of life still exists at multiple points on a cane of Texas high plains Viognier.

As you may have seen commented during the past week on Facebook or the Yahoo Groups Texas Winegrowers, many high plains grape growers used a variety and often multiple approaches to mitigate the spring freeze. Some used newly installed wind turbines while others burned hay, cotton and what other surplus materials they had at hand. Some made fires while also moving air around over their vineyards with helicopters flying aloft.

Another perhaps more subtle but apparently still effective approach is the one shown in the photo. It’s called Cane pruning. This is hardly a new and innovative approach to vineyard management, but one commonly used in cooler climate and higher latitude winegrowing like in Burgundy. It might seem a bit contra-intuitive. After all Texas IS a warm growing, low latitude wine growing region, right? In such areas, a common vine pruning technique is spur pruning. If you go to southern Rhone Valley in France or in many places in California you will usually see spur pruned grapevines. What’s up?

Well, in spur pruning you look at the new, one-year-old wood growing from the spurs (spurs are long canes that are pruned to the size of short twigs) of a cordon (or arms of the vine extending from the trunk). What you usually want are two to four buds on each spur. This is achieved by pruning off everything else. As the new growth progresses from these spurs, it will be trained by attaching it to a trellis wires. In this method, you basically have only a few shots at viable bud growth. But, the good part of it is that it focuses the vine’s energy to producing as much fruit as it can from these few shoots.

Cane pruning involves cutting back nearly all of the last year’s growth. To cane prune a grapevine, normally two well-formed canes growing out of the head of the vine are spared. These canes are tied to the trellis wire. These remaining canes provide many more possibilities for viable growth than usually available from spur pruning. This is why it is often used in colder regions that have late freezes and unfavorable spring weather that can adversely affect the buds. On the downside, it is more manual labor intensive than spur pruning and it can limit the maximum production capacity of the vine than with spur pruning.

I’m far from an expert on grapevine pruning, but from the continuous issues caused in Texas from spring freezes and from the initial results, cane pruning may be another new arrow in the Texas winegrowers quiver to shoot at our springtime weather problems that greatly limit Texas grape and wine production.

 Posted by at 9:36 pm
Apr 222014


Join the Fun at Bending Branch Winery Kentucky Derby Extravaganza

Bob Young, John Rivenburgh and Jennifer Beckmann and the whole crew at Bending Branch Winery invite you to join them and other Texas wine aficionados at their 4th Annual Kentucky Derby Extravaganza on May 3rd. 11 am to 6 pm.  This event has grown in popularity year after year and you will have a ball.

It is big field of twenty-six contenders for this year’s Kentucky Derby. Actually, there are too many to follow closely and no bet will be a sure thing. So, rather than losing your money betting on the horses, come on out to Bending Branch Winery in Comfort, Texas. You can celebrate the day of America’s favorite horse race sipping some Picpoul Blanc or other fine Bending Branch wines.

Bending Branch has certainly raised eyebrows all around the state with the stunning award to their Estate Tannat wine as the best Texas wine in this year’s Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition.

The Bending Branch Kentucky Derby Extravaganza is free to attend and will feature Traditional Hot Brown Sandwiches, Picpoul Blanc Mint Juleps and Award Winning Wines for purchase.  Live Jazz will be performed from 1-5pm.


There will also be a horseshoe tournament held through the afternoon. There will also be local milliners featuring their creations for sale, and we will be unveiling limited edition Derby posters signed and numbered by Keely Corona Smith.  Sponsoring the event this year is San Antonio Magazine, who will also be judging the Parade of Hats & Hat Competition!

Bending Branch Winery, 142 Lindner Branch Trail, Comfort, TX 78013 830-995-2948; for directions, click here.


 Posted by at 7:05 pm
Apr 212014

Who will sow the seeds of change in Texas wine country?

What Are Texas Grape Growers and Winemakers Doing to Build a “Real” Texas Wine Industry?

Or, Who will be the Robert Mondavi of Texas?

It’s been a tough week as a result of the spring freeze that’s hit the high plains and the western and northern parts of the hill country. However, sometimes when it seems darkest, a ray of light appears bringing hope for a better time. Better yet, there is a major meeting of Texas grape growers and winemakers at Newsom Grape Day  on May 9th in longtime grape grower Neal Newsom’s barn in Plains, Texas. They will be talking about how the Tempranillo growing regions in Spain compare to those in Texas. Hopefully, there will be side discussions. This blog is to provide some suggestions to attendees on topics that I feel are critical for Texas’s rise as a new and major wine producing region.Who is going to step up and what steps will be taken?

Last weekend, I finally had some time to “tool around” along the Route 290 wine trail, meeting up with some old friends and visit with some new friends at wineries along the way. While the prognosis from the high plains that feeds many of the hill country wineries with grapes to fill out their harvest needs, many have made decisions or are making decisions on how to better make their wineries viable year-in-and-out and generally more sustainable as mainstream business ventures.

I’ve made a list of what I’ve heard from various sources. In most cases, I’ve chosen not to provide quotes since some did not want their names or opinions known particularly since they were still working on their paths forward after last week’s sever freeze. Check them out below…

#1 – Portfolio Management Applied to Wine Grapes

For the hill country wineries this boils down to finding alternative sources of Texas grapes to replace those lost on the high plains from the recent freeze (this year and last, and maybe next year, too). For the second year now, vineyards in central and northeast Texas appear to have fared somewhat better and have grapes to offer. Gulf coast and east Texas growers have grapes to offer, as well, particularly the popular hybrid, Blanc Du Bois. This essentially means applying a wine country equivalent to what financial advisers recommend to do with your retirement money – Share the risk through diversification. Some gamblers hedge bets to accomplish effectively the same thing, too. For wineries, it means contracting more grapes and from different places all around the state. Then, if one place has a freeze or hail, or if a hurricane comes ripping up the middle of the state, they still have only lost a portion of their total grape harvest.

#2 – A Need for More Tank Space

In accomplishing #1 above, this might also mean that wineries need to “over contract” for grapes than what they actually need. This carries a risk, too. In the event of the good harvest year, wineries may have to take more grapes than they can currently handle. Therefore, like in previous good harvest years of 2010 and 2012, tank space at wineries was at a premium and some perfectly good Texas grapes didn’t find a home. What a waste! A winery that has extra tank space or that has relationships with other operations where wine can be properly stored, can set themselves up for a long stable run of wine that can help them offer wine to customers (and other wineries) during the lean years.

#3 – More Wineries Should Offer Multi-varietal Blends Rather than Single Varietal Wines

Some Texas wineries were burned badly in 2013 by not being able to obtain enough of certain grape varieties (and resultant wine) that their customers have grown to expect. Viognier is a prime example. It has become widely recognized as a prime Texas grape variety, but it buds early and is very susceptible to late spring freezes. However, some wineries are learning how to better manage this situation by offering blends of 2, 3 or more grape varieties under a proprietary name. For example, Hilmy Cellars offers a mystery red blend called “Politics & Religion”. Pedernales Cellars has their white blend Vino Blanco and its very interesting new white five-blend Cinco to take up the slack of not having much their famed Viognier. These are only two of many examples.  Proprietary blends can provide a reliable year-to-year presence on the tasting room or wine market shelf, but the blend can vary yearly depending on the availability and amount of grapes harvested.


Who will be able to lead the herd to market?

#4 – More Emphasis on Multi-vintage Blends, Too!

This past weekend, I finally heard winemakers talking about making wines made from grapes harvested over more than one harvest. The hesitancy of going this route is mainly from distributors and some snobby sommeliers that fear they can’t sell them. However, in the tasting room, both multi-vintage and multi-varietal blend offer a taste of what Texas is – variable, and a market opportunity. It has this fact-of-life in common with most of European winemaking countries. This is why Champagne is known and accepted as a multi-varietal and often multi-vintage wine. The main difference between the Champagne wine region and Texas is that Champagne has learned to accept this tough fact of life and has also learned to use it to their advantage in the marketplace. Why can’t Texas do it, too?

#5 – Non-Texas Wine and Regional Wine Needs to be Part of the Plan

As a minimum, Texas wine (and wine of any other state too) by federal law needs to contain at least 75%  grapes grown within the state.  Anything less than that can’t be called Texas wine.  One way to handle this is to run and hide under the guise of “For Sale in Texas Only”. This sounds like a special product made in Texas especially for Texans, but it’s not. It is way to legally sell out of state wine to Texans without divulging the source or appellation of origin of the grapes.Hopefully, this approach is finally waning.

There now appears to be a new wave of acceptance of wines from Texas wineries where the sources of the grapes is not Texas, but where the source states or appellations are correctly indicated on the label. In this regard, this past weekend, in addition to Texas wines, I saw and tasted wines from New Mexico, Washington, and California. One more legal alternative is to show a co-appellation which can be done in the case where two regions are contiguous (e.g. Texas and New Mexico). This is one method of getting a critical mass of grapes in a bottle wine that can be marketed as a true regional wine. New Mexico works well for us since both Texas and New Mexico grow excellent quality Italian grape varieties (e.g. Dolcetto and Aglianico and maybe even Nero d’Avola).

Texas needs wine in its sails and in its vineyards, too!

Texas needs wind in its sails and apparently in its vineyards, too! Photo credit:

#6 – Use Technology & Varietal Selection to Your Advantage

As far as I know, this is the first year where wind machines (those big propeller devices to move air in the vineyard) have been used in vineyards in the hill country and on the high plains. The verdict in both cases (so I hear) were resounding positives. Grapevines that were protected by such devices fared much better than those left to brave the elements on their own. Other Texas vineyards have tried other technologies such as chemical sprays or overhead sprinkler to delay the onset of bud break past the last freeze. The results of these experiments, while positive, appear less successful, but they are getting people thinking about how to beat spring freezes. Another approach in this regard is selecting grape varieties that naturally bud later. Examples are white grapes like Roussanne, Vermentino, and Trebbiano, and reds like Mourvedre and Carignan. This approach perhaps is the ultimate solution if it can buy us another two to three weeks until bud break. Or perhaps, there is another technology yet proven that can be brought to aid Texas grape grower.

I remind everyone that will listen to me of the story about the grape growers on the Normandy coast around Nantes where the Loire River flows into the Atlantic. They have chosen to grow primarily a grape called Melon de Bourgogne and it is the basis for their local wine industry. Why? Well, it was the only grape that remained harvestable during the period of years from the early 1800s called “The Mini-Ice Age”. They learned that it is very hard to fight Mother Nature, and it is important to make adjustments that accommodate the land and climate that they had.

Remember: Texas isn’t Bordeaux and sure as hell ain’t Burgundy. I know, I know, you have heard that before from me. We need to stop expecting Texas to be something else and stop apologizing about the fact that it’s not. As a matter of fact, it isn’t Napa Valley either or like anywhere else.


Who will emerge as the much needed Robert Mondavi of Texas’s Wine Future?

We need to be looking for ways that will allow Texas wine country to reach its full potential, or borrow old world techniques, or adapt new technologies that can be combined for the same purpose. Texas IS a warm growing region that most of the time as to contend with the “HARD STOP” of the late freezes. Late freeze is currently the single biggest challenge that greatly limits Texas grape and wine production.

Finally, we must keep in mind that most wine growing regions evolved naturally over hundreds, if not thousands of years. Texans need to support their native grape growing and wine industries. Additionally, grape growers and winemakers need to think long and hard (and as creatively as possible) to reach the point where it be commercially viable and economically sustainable year-in-and-out in a truly global marketplace. It looks to me that we may finally have the people in place that can move this initiative forward. Many now in the industry are young and motivated with the opportunity of having 30 or more vintages in front of them to make an impact.

 Posted by at 3:12 pm
Apr 192014

Dirk’s Vodka – Going Against the Grain

Dirk’s Vodka: The Spirit of Texas and Kiepersol – Going Against the Grain

When I’ve had too many harvested Meyer lemons, I’ve made juice (frozen in cubes for later use). When I’ve had too many farm eggs, I’ve made frittata. But, what did Kiepersol Estate winemaker Marnelle Durrett and her father Pierre de Wet do last year when they ended up harvesting more grapes from their estate vineyard near Tyler than they could handle? For the first time, they sold grapes to other Texas winemakers who were in the midst of the 2013 all-time bad grape shortage suffered at the hands of a series of late spring freezes. That offering was much appreciated, I’m sure.

Secondly, they took some of the remaining overage and made more wine than they could use. Then, Pierre went to work designing and building four custom stills with which Jim Durrett distilled what is the first domestic (and Texas) grape-based vodka. If you’ve had Ciroc from France, you’ve tasted the only other vodka of this kind in the world.

On a recent warm east Texas evening, Marnelle, Jim and Pierre hosted friends, winery VIPs and media to the opening of their new Kiepersol wine tasting room and a short walkway away to the distillery for an advance taste of the new product called Dirk’s Vodka.

As you may know, Vodka is a distillate containing ethanol and residual (or added) water usually made from fermented grains or potatoes, though it can be made from other starting materials (e.g. grapes or wine). East Texas has a long history and storied past making distilled beverages behind barns and tucked in cedar breaks often referred to as “moonshine”. Well, with the release of Dirk’s Vodka to the public this past Tuesday, the tradition of east Texas distillation took a big leap forward.


Master Distiller Jim Durrett with his custom stills

The evening was complete with a peek at the modern distilling operation set in the back of what used to be the old Kiepersol tasting room. I can’t image what was involved to de-bond a winery building and re-bond it as a distillery. It sounds like an administrative and paperwork nightmare involving local, state and federal agencies. But, they were successful whatever it took. This is something that characterizes the collective “spirits” of the operations principals.

Upon entering the distillery, the residual heat of the stills was evident in the room as master distiller, Jim Durrett stood front and center and explained the process. After which, he pointed to overhead pipes that lead through the wall. On the other side was a large covered stainless steel tank.

As Jim lifted the large metal lid, the heady, alcoholic vapors permeated into my sinuses while the dipping sound of the pure unadulterated distilled alcohol echoed reminiscently like spring water in a deep cave. Jim also revealed his other works in progress that included rum (made from molasses) and corn-based whiskey both of which were quietly resting in oak barrels gaining age and flavor. A tasting of a few milliliters of each showed promise of other new products that will hopefully follow Dirk’s Vodka to market. My key tasting descriptors for Dirk’s Vodka were crispness, citrus-like tang, and minerally finish.

The night was complete with food and tastings of Dirk’s Vodka, neat and smooth, and blended in cocktails. Meanwhile, the sunset casted long shadows in the adjoining vineyard while toasts were made to the expanding realm of the Kiepersol Estate. Dirk’s vodka is currently available (two bottles per person over 21 years old per month) only at the distillery at 4120 FM 344 E, Tyler, TX 75703; tele: (903) 894-8995.


Vineyard in the expanding realm of Kiepersol Estate

 Posted by at 11:26 am
Apr 162014


2014 Lone Star International Wine Competition Entry Deadline is Coming

Deadline is May 23, 2014 to Feature Your Wines in a Premier Wine Competition for All Winemakers in the 2014 Lone Star International Wine Competition

Don’t miss the deadline for getting your wines into the 2014 Lone Star International Wine Competition (May 23, 2014).  This year marks the 31st anniversary of the competition which is three competitions in one – a Texas competition, an International competition, and a Limited Production competition. The judging will be held in Grapevine, Texas on June 2-3, 2014.

Experienced judges from will select the award-winning wines that span over eight divisions.  Returning in 2014 is a Wine Bottle Label competition, judged by local world-class artists and photographers.  Wine, Wine Bottle Labels, and/or both can be entered into the competition.  Ship your wines now while the weather is still cool.

Winners will receive a gold, silver, or bronze medal.  Winning wines are also recognized in the Best of Show and Best in Varietal categories.

More information can be found at or contact Debbie Reynolds, Executive Director, Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association at:

Download 2014 Entry Form

Download 2014 Rules

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 Posted by at 10:36 am